A New Zealand 911 Emergency!
Well actually it’s “111” for emergencies in NZ!
Lea and I drove back into Auckland on a Wednesday morning and I said farewell to her at the airport. As soon as I dropped her off, I started to feel pretty yucky. I felt dehydrated, tired, and just completely drained. I drove to my friend Scott’s place of work, picked up his house keys, and was on a one-way mission to spend the day napping in his bed.
Throughout the course of the day, I proceeded to feel worse and worse. My joints were aching and I had a persistent headache that just wouldn’t go away. Scott got home from work and dragged me out of bed. “Come on. A nice hot meal will make you feel better!” He selected an Indian joint just around the corner and I was the worse dinner date in the world. I tried to nibble at some rice, but even the sight of food was making me nauseous. We ordered a glass of red wine and on my first sip I could hardly manage. Saying no to wine? Ok. There MUST be something seriously wrong with me!
That evening I was sore, nauseous, and could hardly sleep because of the constant pounding in the front of my head. Scott had already left for work when I woke up the next day at about 9:00am. I shuffled into the bathroom and noticed I developed a spotty rash over my entire body. Plus these little blood blisters on my limbs. Oh. That isn’t a good sign.
I lay in bed for another couple of hours before I forced myself up, into the car, and towards the nearest medical clinic. The doc noted my symptoms, checked out my dotted skin, and suspected I was coming down with flu. He gave me a prescription for a painkiller and an optional blood test. “You probably don’t need to – but you may if you feel more comfortable if you get one.” Luckily, my intuition and my body told me to get to the lab.
A few hours later, as I was laying in agony with a cold cloth over my forehead, I get a call from the clinic. They would like me to come in as soon as possible as I have a really high CRP (C-Reactive Protein) of 280. I can hardly see or walk at this point and then I vomit. I wait for Scott to get home from cricket practice and he gently coaxes me into the car and takes me to the clinic.
I have a pretty high pain tolerance and consider myself to be kind of a ‘tough cookie’… but at this point I feel like I’m dying! Haha!
A second doctor assess my symptoms and even though I can’t see much at this point, I can tell by his eyes he looks pretty worried. He starts yelling to the nurse to get something in medical terminology and I hear him tell another one to call an ambulance. He sticks a needle full of antibiotics into my arm.
Crazy. I can’t really believe I was happily goofing around and on a hike yesterday and now I’m in the back of an ambulance. I have a cold pack over my eyes because the lights are burning and I’m trying my best to answer all of the questions the paramedics are throwing my way.
We get into the hospital and the first thing I have to do is take off all of my clothes. The nurse asks if it’s ok if Scott is there and I remember him laughing and saying something like, “It’s cool. I’ve seen it before!” The nurse then sticks all of these alien circles around my chest and plugs wires into them. I don’t exactly remember happens next, but I just remember a doctor telling me they would like to do an epidural or lumbar puncture and proceeds to explain the risks. “Oh… you may have permanent damage to the feeling in your spin or lose all sensation in your legs. Please sign this waiver.” Jesus! I scribble down my name and then lay on my side in a fetal position.
Epidural ensues. How the FUCK do pregnant woman deal?! I always had this positive view of epidurals as they reduce the severe pain of childbirth! But they bloody hurt! It was nice to have Scott there holding my hand. Apparently I have a curved spin, so in a ‘feel and guess’ procedure, I wasn’t exactly an easy patient. After about 26 pokes to my bone and 2 separate doctors attempting to reach the soft spinal tissue, they finally find it. They begin draining my spinal fluid and discover it’s murky. A telltale sign that I have meningitis.
So there’s my hospital tale!
Lab results confirmed that I developed Meningococcal Meningitis. A pretty nasty bacterial infection of the casing around the brain and spinal cord. Not sure how I got it – it can be transmitted as easily as the common cold by a cough or a sneeze. But it’s certainly an illness that a mother would not enjoy reading about on WebMD. I spent 6 days total in the hospital getting IV injected antibiotics every 4 hours. I was in respiratory isolation which did mean everyone needed to wear a mask in my presence making me feel as if I had Ebola… BUT I got a private room with ensuite bathroom! It was actually nicer than some of the hostels I’ve stayed in! But the hospital food was by far the worse experience! And why do they give you the tiniest juice boxes on the planet!?
It was certainly an interesting week. I feel in complete and utter awe of how lucky I was. I was back in Auckland, staying with a friend, and could not have asked for better medical care. I try not to think too much about it, but I am very aware that the consequences could have been extremely serious, even fatal, if I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had originally booked a flight to Thailand that was leaving early September that I chose to push back to see more of beautiful New Zealand. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I experienced the same symptoms in the middle of a Thai island.
I am feeling extremely humbled and overflowing with gratitude. I also feel very blessed for this experience. I am immensely grateful for caring people, for the power of the universe, and for LIFE!
P.S. Two words: Travel insurance!
I recently purchased travel insurance after being without it for almost 6 months and I am SO happy I did. It’s so worth it because you truly never know what can happen when you’re away. Being slammed with a bill of over $7,000 (which I was) is not exactly something you want to deal with when you away!